Right now, the only local Zipcar location is on the campus of Hood College, where two Zipcars, lovingly nicknamed “Botta” (a Scion Xb) and “Fishfood,” (a Ford Focus sedan) are available to Zipcar members. They are in residence in the Coffman Chapel parking lot when not in use by members.
So how does this Zipcar thing work? Well, the website at www.zipcar.com has very entertaining, short videos featuring your Zipcar Co-Pilot, who covers the in’s and out’s of how to use the program’s unique features. Once a person applies for membership, their driving record is reviewed and they are usually able to share a car within a few days to a week. Their “Zipcard” is their membership “key,” so to speak. It allows them to lock and unlock the car, get gas when a fuel-up is needed, and identifies them as a Zipcar member.
One of my colleagues is based in a D.C. office, and he lives in The District as well, so he doesn’t have to own a car; however, he does come into Frederick frequently to work with employers, attend events, and meet with me. The first time he came in his borrowed Zipcar, I was fascinated. It was a nice, clean, well-maintained car, and he used a card held to a barcode on the windshield to unlock it – how weird was that?!?!? The keys and gas card are kept secured inside the car, and are very easy to use. On one visit, he had to fit a 6’ table, a chair, and several large bins/boxes for an event display into the car, and everything fit well with the back seats folded down. I wouldn’t have said the same of my ability to fit all of that into my VW Bug.
On the Zipcar website, there is a cost calculator so that you can figure out your monthly cost of car ownership and then how much it would cost if you used Zipcar instead. For most of us in Frederick County, who tend to drive to work solo because of the spread-out nature of our geography, it wouldn’t be a money saver five days a week. However, that being said, if we shared rides with colleagues, those who work at other businesses near to ours, or friends/neighbors even twice a week, and then teleworked one other day, it MAY make fiscal sense to use a Zipcar two days a week and still save money. This is, of course, dependent on the type of car you own, payment and insurance costs, gas mileage, and some other factors.
So, in fact, we might not be to the point of car sharing much here — yet. There’s a reason that the two cars for use in our area are based on a college campus! Colleges tend to have issues with a lack of convenient parking, and college kids don’t have much money to spend on car payments, insurance, maintenance, and upkeep. The rest of us working grunts have, for the most part, resigned ourselves to the expenses that come with car ownership and pay the price every month.